Malaysian Food · June 11, 2024

Manok Kacangma Featured

Manok Kacangma: The Iconic Herbal Chicken Dish from Sarawak

Manok Kacangma: The Iconic Herbal Chicken Dish from Sarawak

Manok Kacangma is a herbal chicken dish that holds a special place in the hearts of Sarawakians. The name ‘Manok’ means chicken in the Iban language, while ‘Kacangma’ is the common name for an aromatic herb called Motherwort.

First, let’s talk about Kacangma (or sometimes called Kacama). Kacangma is a mint-like Chinese herb known as ‘益母草’, which directly translates to ‘herb that is beneficial to mothers’. It is traditionally used, commonly by the Hakka community, to promote blood circulation and provide various health benefits, especially when served to new mothers during their confinement periods.

The term ‘Kacangma’ might sound exotic, where some locals initially believed it to be a word derived from Malay or Iban languages. It actually comes from the Hakka dialect. According to research, the Hakka people in the Chaoshan region call the Motherwort herb ‘假青麻’ (Jia Qing Ma). With the Hakka dialect pronunciation, it all makes sense.

Although Manok Kacangma is usually consumed as a confinement dish, this doesn’t mean you need to have had recently given birth to enjoy the dish. People of any genders and at all stages of life are encouraged to consume this delicious dish. Manok Kacangma has transcended its Hakka origins to become a cherished part of Sarawakian cuisine, embraced by other ethnic groups, especially the Iban community. This cross-cultural adoption is a testament to the dish’s universal appeal and the harmonious blend of culinary traditions in Sarawak.

Preparing Manok Kacangma is an art that combines patience and precision. Firstly, the chicken is meticulously cut into smaller pieces and set aside. The Kacangma herb is then slowly heated in a pan over a gentle flame, where the leaves will gradually turn crisp and aromatic, filling the kitchen with a complex fragrance. The process is delicate; too much heat and the herb’s bitterness could overshadow its wonderful flavour.

Fresh ginger is then pounded or blended until it releases its potent juice. This juice becomes a marinade for the chicken, infusing it with a refreshing kick, while the pounded ginger pulp is cooked in a hot pan until golden brown delicious.

Sesame oil is then introduced to the pan. The marinated chicken follows, simmering under a gentle heat, transforming into tender, succulent pieces as the lid covers the pan. The process is unhurried, allowing the chicken to cook thoroughly and absorb the marinated essence.

As the liquid in the pan reduces, it signals the time to bring everything together. The fried ginger pulp rejoins the chicken, followed by the crisp Kacangma. A splash of rice wine is added, for all the flavours to mingle with each other. With a final touch of salt, Manok Kacangma is ready to be served. It is best enjoyed hot, often with a bowl of steamed rice.

In Sarawak, Manok Kacangma can be found in some eateries, particularly those specializing in Iban food, and traditional Chinese or Hakka cuisine. Kacangma herbs can also be found easily in supermarkets and groceries in Sarawak. Thus many families tend to prepare Manok Kacangma at home, preserving the tradition and sharing the comforting flavours with each new generation. 

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Manok Kacangma